Updated: Apr 13
Starting your own business is one of the most exciting things a person can do. Yes, it's stressful, time-consuming, and full of risks, but more often than not, these are the things that drive you rather than hold you back. In the early days, you're raring to go, full of enthusiasm and energy, desperate to solve the problem your service or product can solve.
However, it becomes apparent pretty quickly that solving a problem isn't the only thing we end up doing when running a business. Inevitably, jobs come up that we didn't even imagine we would have to do, and worse, those jobs don't go away. Some of the primary jobs we find ourselves stuck doing, having never for a second imaged we would have to, are:
Invoicing and quotes
Social media marketing
Responding to emails and phone calls
Prospecting for new business
Filing, and general paperwork
You started an online craft store but didn't realise that would mean trying to spread the word through consistent social media posting. You became a self-employed electrician but are stuck trying to send quotes and chasing invoices. These are just examples of course, but it's more than just common for business owners to find themselves doing work they never imagined they would have to do, it's absolutely necessary.
There's one thing that no business can get away from, and that's admin and finances. There's an element of admin in every business, no matter how much you try to get away from it. If you're offering a product or service that isn't free, there's no doubt you will have to deal with finances too. The problem is, you had no idea you would need to do any of this and now, you're finding yourself spending more time on work you didn't set out to do.
All of a sudden, you're stuck in a cycle, like a dog chasing its tail, trying desperately to get back to the heart of your business, the thing that you set out to do, but you just can't seem to get away from the periphery work that's holding you back and stealing all of your time. Before long, this endless tail chasing will leave you feeling exhausted and that exhaustion will completely sap your motivation. Before long, your business will become something you no longer enjoy.
It's at this time, that stepping back seems impossible, but without doing so, you're never going to find a way out of the murky water you're in. It's important to recognise the signs, understand the way you're feeling, and remind yourself that this has nothing to do with falling out of love with your business. This is all about needing to find the time to spend where your business needs you most.
The next step for most business owners is to come to the realisation they need to let go of the work that's holding them back, but when you've put so much love and effort into the business you've created, allowing someone else into your world can be comparable to being asked to pull down the Hoover Dam with your pinky finger.
Inevitably, the excuse of not being able to afford help will also creep in. It's time to have a word with your inner self, because excuses at such a pivotal time in your business, just won't do. There's no way you will ever reach your goals by trying to do everything yourself and keeping costs down as a one-man band. What successful entrepreneur do you know who has done it all by themselves?
So, what's the right way to go? Well, first of all, you need to take a long hard look at the day-to-day running of your business and ask yourself which parts of it are taking up most of your time and whether or not someone else can help with those parts. What bits do you really hate doing? Which jobs are you really not very good at? Our handy time audit template is a great tool for tracking your work and using the results to measure where you're spending most of your time. Use it for a week, and be amazed when you look back at the results, most people have no idea where their time is really being spent.
It might be that you're coping quite well, but don't have time left over at the end of each week for anything else. Time is a precious resource.
We all know that, but it's easy to let time slip through your fingers—especially when you're running a business. Whether you're just starting out or have been in business for years, you've got a lot of responsibilities: managing employees, creating marketing campaigns, and handling everything from customer service to accounting.
There's no question that these are important tasks; they're just not the only things that matter. You also need to make sure you have time for yourself and your family and friends. That might mean setting aside an hour every day to meditate or walk the dog around the block. It could mean working out at lunchtime rather than after work, so you don't feel like you're always rushing after hours.
Whether you're coping or not, there's always one piece of advice I think is invaluable, and that is to outsource work right from the start. Whether that's taking on a volunteer, apprentice, part-time or full-time employee or investing in the services of a Virtual Assistant. The sooner you do this, the easier letting go is as you scale your business. The biggest benefit of course, however, is the time you will get back. No matter what business we are in, we are all in the business of selling our time, let's be honest. If you have none of it left, how on earth are you going to sell yours?
You can't be the secretary, accounting manager, marketing manager, coffee maker, and cleaner. You just can't be everything and you certainly shouldn't try to be. Nobody is perfect and that means you too. In the endless list of jobs, you will find yourself having to do, there's bound to be at least one you are absolutely terrible at. Make that the job you delegate right away, it will do wonders for your motivation and your mood. No longer will you feel dread, anxiety, or guilt for putting it off.
From there, the delegation will become much easier. Hiring a virtual assistant to help with your admin needs is worth its weight in gold, no matter where you are in your business. It costs nowhere near as much as hiring an employee and comes with none of the risks. What's more, they usually always come with a vast amount of experience and knowledge leaving you without the pressure of having to train them up extensively.
Whatever you take away from this post, take away the fact that trying to do it all yourself will not make you successful and it won't save you money, without the time to spend growing your business, it will take away any opportunities you have to bring in more money. Remember the more important things in life, like family and friends, and stop sacrificing them for long hours in the office. Lastly, stop making excuses and face your fear of letting go. Without time, you can't scale. You have to grow, by letting go.